December 09, 2005
I once described "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye as the dumbest protest song ever. But perhaps I spoke too soon, for there's certainly a lot of competition for such a title.
Perhaps "Imagine" by John
Lennon should get that title. He sure impacted a lot of nonsense into just
a few lines of song. Ol' Victor
Lana brought this into focus for me with this sincere but wrongheaded
defense of the song:
He was saying, "This is what the world could be like if you would all get yourselves together."
What's so annoying about the song for you? A man calling for world peace? Man, especially in these times, I think we need more of that.
Religion? Possessions? War? Which of these haven't gotten us into trouble over the centuries?
Look, it's a damned pop song with pretensions to spiritual profundity. Basically, it's a Hallmark card for damned dirty hippies. Don't kid yourself into thinking that those words are any deeper intellectually or emotionally than a greeting card, cause they're not. "Imagine there's no countries." Yeah, well imagine if fishes had wishes. Wouldn't that be great?
Now, probably Lennon himself didn't think that much about it when he was writing it. He had a hook and a catch phrase, and developed a strong tune for it- though it is stiff, white English church music that sounds like you should be wearing a jacket and tie and sitting on a hard wooden bench while you listen. Still, it is admittedly a well crafted, pretty song.
But "Imagine" is a stupid, cheap lyrical sentiment. Elvis Costello famously cracked "Was it a millionare who said 'imagine no possessions.'?" Just imagine world peace and a commie utopia and you're halfway there.
Not that John Lennon really believed in any of that nonsense- even when he was running around in military fatigues and spouting stupid faux-revolutionary rhetoric. But it sounded good in a song lyric.
Pop songs appeal primarily to emotions, not reason or logic. The fact that a sentiment sounds good coming out of a singer's mouth, with swelling strings and a Phil Spector production doesn't mean that it has any validity whatsoever.
No, we do NOT need more of this kind of sentiment. It actively works against the difficult and often unpleasant but utterly necessary task of sorting reality from fantasy.
NO, the world could NEVER be like this stupid song. In fact we could not live without possessions. We are material beings, not discorporate spirits. Communism has been tried, and resulted in much of the worst unnecessary suffering in the history of mankind.
This cheap sticky cotton candy excuse for philosophy would be deleterious to the public good if we took it at all seriously. In the real world, this dumb hippy crap will do you no good in dealing with, say, Osama Bin Laden.
Fortunately, most folk have enough sense to discount the silly philosophies of pop singers. I love John Lennon songs as much as the next guy, but you'd have to be pretty dumb to take his publicity stunts as serious politics. That bed-in foolishness was about John and Yoko, not the outside world.
On the other hand, maybe we should just give peace a chance. If we just go to Kim Jong Il, lighting candles and singing this song, then maybe one day he'll join us, and the world will be as one.
In the meantime, I'd suggest not disbanding our army just yet.
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